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Obama Argues for Science, Sells URL

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, April 28 2009

Clearly, President Obama thrilled the team over at the Office of Science and Technology Policy yesterday when, in a forceful speech at the National Academy of Sciences about "restoring science to its rightful place," the president gave sizable props to what the OSTP has just started attempting to do online in inviting public input on the new executive order on scientific integrity that he's ordered written. The Office of Science and Technology Policy is, of course, home to the newly appointed CTO and is also the nesting ground for well known advocates for open government like Beth Noveck and Susan Crawford. (Argh. Crawford is actually with the National Economic Council, not OSTP. Regret the error.) Here's the part of Obama's remarks that must have spread huge smiles on the faces of the folks there:

As part of this effort, we've already launched a web site that allows individuals to not only make recommendations to achieve this goal, but to collaborate on those recommendations. It's a small step, but one that's creating a more transparent, participatory and democratic government.

Only thing better would have been the President spelling out the URL: Log on to double-you, double-you, double-you... (Raise your hand if you've ever sat on the edge of your seat, hoping against hope that your boss would remember to mention your URL -- and get it right.) Obama's quote was smacked up on the brand spanking new OSTP blog in, I'm guessing, about 12 seconds.

Over on, they're asking for comments on how to flesh out the six big principles that the executive order on scientific integrity will cover:

  • The selection and retention of candidates for science and technology positions in the executive branch should be based on the candidate’s knowledge, credentials, experience, and integrity.
  • Each agency should have appropriate rules and procedures to ensure the integrity of the scientific process within the agency.
  • When scientific or technological information is considered in policy decisions, the information should be subject to well-established scientific processes, including peer review where appropriate, and each agency should appropriately and accurately reflect that information in complying with and applying relevant statutory standards.
  • Except for information that is properly restricted from disclosure under procedures established in accordance with statute, regulation, Executive Order, or Presidential Memorandum, each agency should make available to the public the scientific or technological findings or conclusions considered or relied on in policy decisions.
  • Each agency should have in place procedures to identify and address instances in which the scientific process or the integrity of scientific and technological information may be compromised.
  • Each agency should adopt such additional procedures, including any appropriate whistleblower protections, as are necessary to ensure the integrity of scientific and technological information and processes on which the agency relies in its decisionmaking or otherwise uses or prepares.

Obama's full remarks from the NAS speech are well worth a read. As Amy Sullivan notes over at Time, few things seem to raise the presidential dander like the idea that science isn't the proper pursuit of government, and that the United States should shy away from scientific exploration because of fuzzy fears over monkey-human hybrids. He seems personally offended. Take this line, for example: "To undermine scientific integrity is to undermine our democracy. It is contrary to our way of life." And he even admiringly quotes Vannevar Bush! Dude is trolling for our geek love pretty hard.